Corn Snake Care Sheet (Complete Care Guide for Beginners)

The corn snake is a “red rat snake” from the genus Elaphe guttata guttata. It has recently been regrouped into the classification Pantheropis instead of Elaphe, but in many places is still listed as Elaphe.

It is an easily tamed snake that can be kept alone or in groups, available in a variety of colors and patterns, that grows from 3 to 6 feet in length, but remains slender and light-weighted.

The wide variety of colors available along with its ease of care and friendly personality make it a very popular pet – one of the most popular exotic pets in captivity.

Corn snakes are bred in captivity in huge numbers across the world, and few are now taken from the wild, where they originate in the U.S.A.

Care DifficultyGood for beginner
Average Life SpanUp to 20+ years with proper care
Average Adult Size4 to 6 feet long
Minimum Habitat Size40+ gallons

Corn Snake Size

Corn snakes are incredibly manageable when it comes to their size, averaging between 4 to 6 feet in length when fully grown. For those of you new to snake keeping, the corn snake is the perfect introduction – large enough to be interesting, but not so large as to be daunting or require excessive space.

Baby Corn Snakes: Newborn corn snakes, also known as hatchlings, are approximately 8-12 inches long. They’re about the width of a pencil, tiny yet full of potential.

Juvenile Corn Snakes: As they enter their juvenile stage, corn snakes see a significant growth spurt. By the time they are one year old, they can be 1-2 feet long. Their bodies begin to fill out, but they still have plenty of growing left to do.

Adult Corn Snakes: The adult phase is where corn snakes reach their maximum size. It’s important to note that they typically reach adulthood around 18-36 months of age. It’s at this stage that they will achieve their average adult length of 4-6 feet, with some exceptional individuals even reaching up to 6 feet.

Corn Snake Lifespan

The corn snake has a lifespan that is usually described as 15-20 years, however, the oldest corn snake recorded in captivity was over 32 years old. Of course, we have no idea how long they live in the wild as no extensive studies have been done into recording this data, but it is fairly safe to say your corn snake should be around for quite a while!

Do Corn Snakes Make Good Pets?


When considering whether corn snakes make good pets, there’s a clear answer based on firsthand experience and expertise: they certainly do. Corn snakes stand out as exemplary pet choices in the realm of reptile care. However, like all pets, they come with their unique set of pros and cons that prospective pet owners must consider before taking one home.

Pros of Corn Snake as Pets

Corn snakes are often the top choice for many herpetoculturists, or reptile enthusiasts, and there’s good reason for their popularity.

  1. Easy to Handle: Unlike some of their larger or more temperamental cousins, corn snakes are typically very gentle and tolerant of handling, making them suitable pets even for those new to reptile care.
  2. Minimal Maintenance: Corn snakes do not require a complex habitat or diet, making their care relatively straightforward. This doesn’t imply you can neglect them, but it does mean they demand less time and resources than some other pets.
  3. Long Lifespan: With proper care, corn snakes can live up to 20 years. This long lifespan makes them a companion you can count on for years to come.
  4. Vibrant Colors: Corn snakes are known for their vivid coloration, which can range from bright oranges and reds to more subdued browns, providing visual interest for any pet owner.
  5. Non-Venomous: Corn snakes are non-venomous and pose no serious threat to their handlers, which adds to their appeal as family-friendly pets.

Cons of Corn Snake as Pets

While there’s no denying the appeal of corn snakes as pets, it’s equally important to consider the potential challenges that can come with their care.

  1. Feeding Live Prey: While not always necessary, some corn snakes prefer live mice, which can be challenging for some owners to handle.
  2. Escape Artists: Corn snakes are known for their ability to escape from their enclosures if not properly secured, which can lead to moments of panic for the owners.
  3. Temperature and Humidity Requirements: Corn snakes have specific temperature and humidity requirements to stay healthy. These conditions need to be maintained consistently, which may require special equipment and monitoring.
  4. Potential Fear: If you have guests or family members who fear snakes, owning a corn snake could be problematic.

Corn Snake Habitat


In providing optimal care for your corn snake, creating the appropriate habitat is paramount. As a well-informed snake keeper, you must consider every aspect of the snake’s environment, including habitat size, decor, heating, lighting, humidity, and habitat cleanliness.

Habitat Size

For young snakes, a 10-gallon tank is an appropriate starting point. It provides ample space for the young colubrid to exercise and exhibit normal behavior. It’s important to remember that as the corn snake grows to reach its adult size within 2-3 years, the habitat size should increase accordingly.

For an adult corn snake, a 40-gallon breeder or larger tank is recommended. The habitat should be expansive enough to allow the snake to stretch out fully. Moreover, it’s crucial to secure the tank with a locking lid to prevent escapes.


When it comes to bedding, your options include paper-based bedding, reptile carpet, and Aspen shavings. Aspen shavings, if used, must be changed weekly or more frequently if needed to prevent it from becoming excessively wet or soiled. Avoid using Pine and cedar as they contain oils that can irritate the snake’s skin.


Decorating the habitat not only adds visual appeal but also serves essential functional purposes. Providing a hideout, such as a synthetic or natural wood hide log, allows the corn snake to retreat from direct light, thereby regulating their body temperature.

Also, while corn snakes are terrestrial, a climbing branch can provide a way for your corn snake to exercise. Add in some plants and a background to enhance the aesthetics of your habitat.

Temperature and Lighting

A temperature gradient within the habitat is critical for the snake’s wellbeing. The warm end should be around 85°F, with the cool end in the low 70s°F. Implement radiant heat with an over-the-tank basking heat bulb and/or under-tank heater.

Temperatures should be monitored daily with at least two thermometers (one in the cool zone and one in the basking zone) or a point-and-shoot thermometer.

Lighting should be provided for 8-12 hours daily. Exposure to UVA/UVB light during the day benefits all snakes by improving their immune system function and promoting normal health and behavior. It’s important not to leave white light on at all times; a nocturnal or infrared light should be used at night.


Maintain a humidity level of 40-60%, increasing it to around 70% during shedding periods. Utilize a shallow open bowl of water or a piece of moist paper towel or sphagnum moss to aid in shedding. Daily misting with warm water can also prove helpful.

Cleaning Your Corn Snake’s Habitat

Maintaining the cleanliness of your corn snake’s habitat is a non-negotiable aspect of their care. Thoroughly clean and disinfect the habitat at least once a week:

  1. Place the snake in a secure habitat.
  2. Scrub the tank and furnishings with a reptile habitat cleaner or 3% bleach solution.
  3. Allow the bleach solution to remain in the tank for 10 minutes before rinsing to ensure adequate disinfection. Follow the habitat cleaner manufacturer’s instructions.
  4. Rinse thoroughly with water, removing all traces of bleach smell.
  5. Dry the tank and furnishings completely and add clean substrate before returning décor and corn snake to the tank.

Adhering to these guidelines guarantees a healthy, safe, and nurturing habitat for your corn snake. Remember, optimal care translates to a happier, healthier snake.

What Do Corn Snakes Eat?


Corn Snake Diet in the Wild

In their natural habitat, corn snakes are opportunist hunters. They prey on a variety of animals, including rodents, birds, and amphibians. With their strong constrictor bodies, they are capable of capturing and consuming animals of considerable size. Despite their prowess as hunters, the size of their prey is usually proportional to their own body size.

Corn Snake Diet in Captivity

In captivity, a well-balanced corn snake diet consists of appropriately sized frozen rodents, thawed or warmed to slightly above room temperature. The rule of thumb is to feed your snake prey that is approximately the size of the snake’s width at mid-body.

Stages and Diet:

  • Juveniles: Start with ‘pinkies’ (newborn mice) for young corn snakes.
  • Adults: Progressively increase the size to larger mice and rats for adult corn snakes.

Live prey should be avoided, as rodents commonly bite snakes, and the wounds inflicted can lead to life-threatening infections. If feeding your snake live rodents is inevitable, vigilance is paramount. Never leave them unattended as live rodents can cause fatal injuries to the snake.

Feeding Tips for Your Corn Snake:

For an optimal feeding experience, remember these key points:

  1. Hydration: Fresh, clean water should always be accessible in a bowl large enough for your corn snake to soak in.
  2. Frequency: Feed juveniles once a week, and adults every 1-2 weeks.
  3. Timing: Corn snakes are primarily diurnal, most active during the day. Meals should ideally be offered during daylight hours.
  4. Location: Feed in a separate enclosure, so your corn snake doesn’t associate your hand or their habitat opening with feeding.
  5. Safety: Do not use a microwave to defrost frozen rodents, and ensure they’re prepared away from your food area. If this isn’t possible, thoroughly disinfect the area.

Remember, being well-informed and attentive to your corn snake’s dietary needs is a fundamental aspect of its care. Follow these guidelines, and you will have a healthy and happy corn snake.

Corn Snake Handling


It is great fun to hold your Corn Snake while watching TV. They do like your body heat, and are generally very docile (easygoing) animals. Try to not handle them for two days after feeding, and for three days after shipping.

Let’s not mince words here: all reptiles, including our beloved Corn Snakes, are potential carriers of infectious diseases, including salmonella. This fact, however, should never deter you from handling your pet snake, provided you follow the correct precautions.

Pre-Handling Precautions

First and foremost, before you even think about handling your Corn Snake, you need to wash your hands thoroughly. And I mean thoroughly. Don’t just give them a quick rinse under the faucet; use a good antibacterial soap and warm water, and scrub for at least 20 seconds. This isn’t just for your safety, either—it can also protect your snake from any potential harmful bacteria you may be carrying.

Post-Handling Cleanliness

Secondly, it’s equally vital that you wash your hands immediately after handling your snake or any contents of its habitat. This prevents the potential spread of diseases to you and others in your household. Ensure this is done with the same level of diligence and thoroughness as your pre-handling hand wash.

The Cost of Owning a Corn Snake

Owning a corn snake, like any pet, involves various costs that you must consider before deciding to bring one into your home. We’re not just talking about the initial purchase, but ongoing costs for food, habitat, and healthcare that are absolutely necessary for the well-being of your slithery friend.

Initial Costs

1. Purchase Price

Here’s an indisputable fact: The cost of purchasing a corn snake can range from $20 to $500. The variance in price is largely dependent on the snake’s age, size, color morph, and breeder reputation. For example, a common red rat snake (another name for a corn snake) from a reputable breeder can set you back about $40-$60, while rare color morphs or larger adult snakes may command higher prices.

2. Habitat Setup

Without question, your corn snake needs a proper home. This includes a terrarium or vivarium, which will cost around $50-$150 depending on the size and quality. On top of that, you’ll need to invest in substrates, hiding spots, a water dish, and a heat lamp. All these additions can total an extra $70-$100.

ItemApproximate Cost ($)
Hiding spots10-20
Water dish5-10
Heat Lamp15-40

Recurring Costs

1. Food

Corn snakes are obligate carnivores, meaning they primarily eat meat – specifically, rodents. Depending on the size of your snake, a week’s worth of frozen rodents can cost about $5-$10. Thus, we’re looking at an estimated annual cost of $260-$520 for feeding your snake.

2. Healthcare

Veterinary check-ups are non-negotiable. Expect to pay around $50-$100 per regular vet visit, though this can significantly increase if your snake needs treatment for health issues. We recommend budgeting at least $100 per year for routine healthcare.

3. Habitat Maintenance

As an expert reptile caregiver, I cannot stress this enough: Regularly replacing substrates, maintaining the heating elements, and occasional replacements for the hide and water dish are all part of the deal. On average, you may spend around $100-$150 annually for habitat maintenance.

In conclusion, while the cost of owning a corn snake might not break the bank, it’s an investment that requires thought and preparation. Remember, your corn snake depends on you for its well-being, and skimping on these costs isn’t an option. Go into this adventure fully aware of the financial responsibilities involved – your future corn snake will thank you.


In nature, corn snakes have a semi-hibernation period when it gets cooler outside. This prepares their bodies for breeding. Do not bother with this unless you plan on breeding your animals. If you live in Florida, you can simply put your animals on a porch (but out of direct sunlight so as not to bake your animal) or in the garage, and leave the window open. The idea is to keep the temperature in the 40’s to 60’s for 10 weeks or so.

Breeders use A/C units to simulate winter and control their animals’ environment. Your animals will slow down, and not require any food during this period. They do not lose any weight and they are generally inactive. Try to limit the amount of light your animals get during this period. In nature, they typically have hidden in dimly lit places, such as holes, rotted tree trunks, or under rocks. Once every couple of weeks check on their water. Generally, try to leave them alone.



As reptiles grow they regularly need to shed their skin; either because their skin becomes too small and tight, or because it becomes worn out. The new skin is produced underneath the old one prior to shedding. Young snakes may shed more frequently than adult snakes, but in general, the shedding process occurs several times a year. This is nothing to worry about as a keeper, but there are a few things you can do to help your snake through this process.

At the beginning of the process the corn snake’s eyes turn milky blue and the overall appearance of the snake is somewhat diminished.  Just prior to shedding the eyes clear up and the corn snake seeks a humid environment to soften the skin, this could even involve soaking in a water bowl. When the skin is soft enough to be removed, shedding will begin; the corn snake rolls the skin off its head and inverts it all the way down its body until it finishes off its tail.

Up to two weeks before shedding all corn snakes stop feeding and will have no appetite until the skin has been removed. The whole process usually lasts little more than a week and so a feeding routine is rarely disturbed.

Common Corn Snake Diseases

Please note: I’m not a vet, but I have extensive experience with corn snakes and will offer advice based on this knowledge. Always consult with a professional vet who specializes in reptiles if your snake appears ill.

Corn snakes, like all creatures, can unfortunately fall victim to various diseases. It’s crucial to be proactive in understanding these ailments, their symptoms, and treatment options to ensure your scaly friend stays healthy. Below is a detailed list of common diseases that may affect corn snakes, compiled from my own experience and validated by authoritative resources.

Respiratory Infections

Respiratory infections (RI) are quite common among corn snakes and are often caused by poor vivarium conditions, such as incorrect humidity or temperature levels. Symptoms include wheezing, mouth gaping, excessive mucus, and a lack of appetite.

  • Prevention: Maintain proper temperature (75-85°F) and humidity (40-60%) levels in the vivarium.
  • Treatment: In most cases, improving the vivarium conditions can alleviate the symptoms. If the symptoms persist, consult with a vet who may administer antibiotics.

Scale Rot

Scale rot is a bacterial infection affecting the snake’s scales. It’s generally a result of unclean living conditions. It manifests as discoloration or blistering on the snake’s belly.

  • Prevention: Keep the snake’s habitat clean and dry.
  • Treatment: A vet may recommend topical treatments or antibiotics, depending on the severity of the infection.

Mouth Rot (Stomatitis)

Mouth rot, or stomatitis, is a bacterial infection in the mouth that can lead to severe health problems if not treated promptly. Symptoms include redness, swelling, and a pus-like discharge around the mouth.

  • Prevention: Regularly sanitize the vivarium and ensure the snake is well-fed with clean prey.
  • Treatment: Seek immediate veterinary care as antibiotics are often needed.

Internal Parasites

Corn snakes can also suffer from internal parasites, which often enter their system through infected food. Signs include abnormal feces, regurgitation, and rapid weight loss.

  • Prevention: Only feed your snake with food from reliable sources.
  • Treatment: A vet will likely prescribe antiparasitic medications.
Respiratory InfectionWheezing, mouth gaping, excessive mucus, lack of appetiteProper temperature and humidityImprove conditions, possibly antibiotics
Scale RotDiscoloration or blistering on the bellyClean and dry habitatTopical treatments, possibly antibiotics
Mouth Rot (Stomatitis)Redness, swelling, pus-like discharge around the mouthSanitize vivarium, clean preyImmediate veterinary care, antibiotics
Internal ParasitesAbnormal feces, regurgitation, rapid weight lossFood from reliable sourcesAntiparasitic medications

Maintaining a healthy environment is key to preventing most of these common diseases in corn snakes. Should your pet show signs of any disease, please consult a vet promptly. Proper care and prompt action are crucial for your corn snake’s well-being.

Signs of a Healthy Corn Snake

  • Active and alert
  • Clear eyes (except when shedding)
  • Eats regularly
  • Good body composition
  • Healthy, supple, smooth skin
  • Regularly sheds skin in one complete piece
  • Free of mites and ticks

Signs of a Sick Corn Snake

If you notice any of these signs, contact your veterinarian.

  • Unusually frequent or infrequent shedding
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargic or reluctant to eat
  • Abnormal feces
  • Bumps or spots on the skin
  • Red/pink color to skin possibly indicating systemic infection
  • Labored breathing
  • Bubbles from mouth and nose
  • Difficulty shedding or shedding skin in pieces
  • White, cheesy substance in the mouth


The Corn Snake, a highly recommended pet reptile, requires careful and meticulous care for its well-being. As a responsible pet owner, it’s essential to adhere to best practices when it comes to caring for these fascinating creatures.

Caring for a Corn Snake is not just a task—it’s an ongoing commitment. It requires a keen understanding of the species’ needs and an assertive attitude to meet them. Your Corn Snake will not merely survive under your care; it will thrive.

Ensure your Corn Snake’s enclosure is kept clean and dry, with a keen focus on maintaining appropriate temperature and humidity levels. This isn’t up for debate; it’s an absolute necessity. Regular veterinary checks are also essential to your snake’s health, catching any issues before they escalate.

There’s no compromising when it comes to a Corn Snake’s diet. Feed them appropriately sized prey, and remember: variety is key to a balanced diet. In the case of nutritional deficiencies, you must be willing to address them promptly with the necessary supplements.

Spend quality time with your Corn Snake. Regular handling—done with respect for the snake’s comfort and safety—is key to establishing trust and making your snake comfortable in your presence. This isn’t optional; it’s crucial to their emotional wellbeing.

Lastly, it’s critical to ensure that your snake’s environment is escape-proof. Not only does this protect your Corn Snake from harm, but it also guarantees the safety of other pets or family members.

To wrap things up, let’s revisit the key points that, when taken assertively, will set you on the path to being a competent and caring Corn Snake owner:

  1. Health: Regular cleanings, appropriate climate control, and veterinary checks.
  2. Nutrition: A varied diet of appropriately sized prey, supplemented when necessary.
  3. Socializing: Regular, respectful handling to build trust.
  4. Safety: An escape-proof environment for the benefit of all.

Remember, Corn Snakes are a wonderful pet—gentle, curious, and relatively easy to care for. However, their health and happiness rely on your commitment and informed care. So arm yourself with knowledge, stand firm in your responsibilities, and your Corn Snake will live a long, happy, and healthy life.

No doubts, no half-measures. This is what Corn Snake care is all about.

Filled under: Snakes

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